Access Modifiers in Java: Everything You Need to Know

Access modifiers, also known by their alternative name of access specifiers, are an essential component of object-oriented programming languages. It is possible to set the accessibility levels of classes, interfaces, methods, and member variables with the help of these keywords. You can control which other courses outside your own have access to certain areas of your code by using access modifiers. 

What are Access Modifiers in Java?

Java access modifiers, often called access specifiers, establish access restrictions for classes, interfaces, methods, and member variables. This controls whether other classes may access certain code components.

The four access modifiers in Java are:

  • Private

The element is only accessible within the same class, offering strong encapsulation.

  • Default

When no modifier is specified, the element is only visible to other classes in the same package. Also known as package-private.

  • Protected

Allows visibility to subclasses as well as within the same package.

  • Public

Permits access from any class, meaning no restrictions.

These modifiers explicitly control encapsulation and accessibility in Java. Access specifiers and access modifiers refer to the same concept in Java - keywords that set accessibility rules. Some other common terms include access level, visibility level, and scope. But they all refer to the level of exposure for classes, methods, etc., based on private, default, protected, or public keyword rules.

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Why are Access Modifiers Important?

Here are some key reasons why access modifiers are important in Java:

  • Encapsulation

Access modifiers allow you to encapsulate code into classes and expose only what other parts of the code need to access. This reduces dependencies between classes.

  • Prevent Misuse

Limiting access prevents other code from misusing certain methods or variables in ways you did not intend.

  • Security

Restricting access to sensitive data and methods improves security by hiding implementation details from potential attackers.

  • Refractorability

Code that uses proper access modifiers is easier to refactor since reducing visibility won't break other code.

  • Readability

Access modifiers make code more readable by explicitly stating assumptions about who can access different components.

  • Reusability

Classes that properly leverage access modifiers will be more reusable in new projects without extensive modifications.

  • Interface Control

Access modifiers allow you to define stable public interfaces for classes while implementation remains private.

Different Types of Access Modifiers

Here are the different types of access modifiers in Java and how they control the accessibility of classes, interfaces, methods, and member variables:


  • The element is only accessible within the class in which it is declared.
  • Provides the highest level of encapsulation.
  • It cannot be accessed from subclasses or outside classes.


  • When no access modifier is specified, the element has package-private or default access.
  • It is only accessible within classes in the same package.
  • Provides encapsulation at package level.


  • Element is accessible within the same package and subclasses in other packages.
  • Allows subclasses to reuse parent class code while restricting access to others.


  • Element is accessible from any class.
  • Provides the lowest level of encapsulation.
  • Useful for APIs, interfaces, and methods intended for global access.

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Access Modifiers in Real Projects

Here are some common ways that access modifiers are used in real Java projects and codebases:

  • Public API methods in classes and interfaces are marked public so other classes and packages can access them. This defines the public contract.
  • Methods and variables that are internal implementation details are marked private to hide them from other classes.
  • Data member variables are marked private with public getter and setter methods to control access.
  • Classes use interfaces to define public APIs and keep concrete implementations encapsulated.
  • JavaBeans require getters and setters for private properties following standard conventions.
  • FXML can only initialize public fields and methods in JavaFX due to access rules.

Properly leveraging access modifiers allows the creation of structured code that encapsulates implementation details from external classes. It is a best practice all professional Java developers should follow.

Access Modifiers for Effective Object-Oriented Design

Using access modifiers effectively is key for robust object-oriented design in Java. Here are some best practices:

  • Mark classes and interfaces as public if they will be used externally by other code. Default access if they are internal implementation details.
  • Methods that comprise the external API should be public to allow access. Private methods are helpers that shouldn't be called directly.
  • Member variables should almost always be private. Getter and setter methods provide controlled access.
  • For inheritance, use protected methods subclasses need to override and access. Avoid public fields.
  • Constants are often public if they are useful to export. Otherwise, consider package-private access.
  • Use interfaces to define public contracts that concrete classes can implement with flexibility.

Following these guidelines will lead to encapsulated Java code with clean APIs. The access modifiers help clarify assumptions for maintainability and reuse. Use them wisely.

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Access modifiers in Java allow you to encapsulate your code and define clear visibility for classes and members. The private, default, protected and public modifiers control access from other classes. 

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If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to post them in the comments section below. Our team will get back to you at the earliest.


1. Can private members be accessed in subclasses?

No, it is not possible to access private members from inside subclasses. When the private access modifier is applied to a member, it indicates that the member is only available inside the context of the class in which it is defined. Even though they are in the same package, subclasses cannot access a private member.

2. How do access modifiers affect performance?

In most cases, the access modifiers do not affect the runtime performance. On the other hand, an excessive reliance on public members instead of private or protected ones might lead to unwanted coupling between class instances. This might hinder optimizations, which could result in less efficient code.

3. Are access modifiers only applicable to classes and methods?

Access modifiers are not limited to just being used on private variables; member variables may also be given access modifiers to govern whether or not they are visible to users outside of the class. Encapsulation of the state is made possible through private variables.

4. How do access modifiers relate to JavaBeans and JavaFX?

Access modifiers are very important to both JavaBeans and JavaFX. Accessing private member variables in a JavaBeans application involves getting and setting methods. Because FXML loading in JavaFX only affects the initialization of public members, access modifiers determine what kind of values may be set using FXML.

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